Health in the Asylum System

Friday, 22 November 2019, 14:00 @ Meeting Point Campus Gußhaus, Gußhausstraße 25 – 29, 1040 Vienna

The workshop will reflect upon the interrelations between health and space in the Austrian asylum system. Based on our perception of urban places in Vienna during the workshop and empirical data from my ongoing PhD project about health needs of refugees, we will discuss how urban space contributes to and limits the ability to be healthy. We will also explore how health-seeking behavior itself can be an active mode of appropriating and navigating the city.

Since November 2018 I accompany seven refugees to understand their health needs, and how informal and institutionalised instances of care (do not) respond to them. I visit them at their homes, conduct interviews with them, and accompany them to hospitals and doctor’s visits. My project thereby conceives health needs of refugees in an explorative way, as nested in everyday life experiences and intertwined with their personal histories. It is based on the premise that the fulfillment of health needs is part of a dignified life, and that high-income countries should provide policies which guarantee that these needs are met for all people living in their territories. I will thus link the personal experiences of my research participants to broader structures by taking provider perspectives (e.g. doctors and social workers), legal frameworks and political developments into account.

The workshop introduces an ethnographic gaze. We will get to know the surroundings of an asylum seeker accommodation in Vienna and closeby places that inhabitants frequent during health-seeking behavior. At various stops, I will present parts of my data that proved space to be a vital concept for my research topic (including interview transcripts, observational notes and mental maps). At the end of the walk we will share perceptions and discuss possible meanings of the visited places and the presented data.

Wanda Spahl is a university assistant at the Department of Political Science at the University of Vienna, where she teaches qualitative research methods. As a pre-doctoral research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Solidarity (CeSCoS) she analyses policies and practices pertaining to health needs of refugees.